CrossFit Frankfort in Frankfort, Kentucky, opened in June 2013. Co-owner Billie Jo Gannone shares about the business that she started with her husband Jason below.
Billie Jo Gannone: We are a smaller and very close-knit community, but also extremely welcoming, no matter if it’s a new member or a drop-in from out of town. We have a very family-oriented Box and one of the most experienced/qualified coaching staff in the central Kentucky area. We focus on the basics and quality movement mechanics to improve one’s everyday fitness.
The majority of our athletes are here for just that — everyday fitness — but we also have a former Master Game’s Athlete on staff, and another that narrowly missed the Game’s last year (by three points) but went on to win the Granite Games in his age division. The passion our Coaches have for teaching others something new, whether it’s how to squat correctly, how to improve upon their Clean and Jerk, or refining their muscle-up to become more efficient at it, is evident in the way they approach each class.
We don’t like to settle, whether that is our athletes or us as Coaches. I push my Coaches to be better by encouraging more training, and they in return, expect more and push our athletes for more.
BG: We were first exposed to CrossFit when we were both in the Marine Corps, but it wasn’t as widespread then and there wasn’t a local Box to attend. My husband rediscovered CrossFit several years later, deployed to Afghanistan and decided that owning a Box would be our next adventure. We decided to come to my hometown in Kentucky to open it, but we were coming into a market where two other Boxes were opening within months of us, both owned and operated by others well known to the local fitness community. It was challenging coming into that environment, being the ones on the outside and unknown in our community. We literally relocated states and opened our doors all in one month.
My husband always had a dream of owning his own gym, stemming from his major in biology and kinesiology, and being a personal trainer before he ever joined the Marine Corps. He received his Level 1 first, and we used that to get started. I went for mine right after and immediately followed up by getting my CrossFit Kids certification so we could start a kids program. We started in a small, 1,200-square-foot storage space of an office building we affectionately named “the dungeon” — with its low ceilings and no windows — and expanded from there. It has definitely been an adventure through the years.
BG: One of the goals that I open every one of our Coaches meetings with as an affirmation, is that we want to pursue excellence in all that we do, and we do so through virtuosity, having that brilliance at the basics. I think this all stems from our time in the Marine Corps, striving to always be the best of the best, while taking on that mentality of every Marine is a rifleman. Every person that walks through my door is an athlete, they are part of the family, and I want to teach them to be the best they can be because we take pride in who we are.
I want CrossFit Frankfort to be the place where our members want to be every day, the one they tell all their friends about and the place they bring those friends. That is the biggest compliment anyone can give: trusting us with a family member or friend to coach and train.
Also, I am the crazy CrossFit mom. I am the one cheering the loudest, and I am so proud of our athletes and all of their accomplishments both inside and outside of the gym. I am the one who wants them to succeed and pushes them to be their best. At the same time, my mom instinct kicks in when watching someone go for a PR lift, attempt muscle-ups, etc., and I get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I can also be the one who coaches like the one who moves their whole body while steering a car playing a video game, and it’s pretty embarrassing when I realize I’m doing it.
BG: We have said from Day One this would be God’s Box and we would do it until He led us in a different direction. We definitely feel He has guided us, our mission and principles all these years and even protected us from several situations. We just try to treat people right, whether they are our members or other businesses we deal with.
Have I mentioned before that we have an amazing coaching staff? Our gym wouldn’t be what it is without them. They may all coach part time, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they coach. Over the last six-plus years there have been so many things on the personal side of our lives: deployment, family health crises, one of our children being diagnosed with autism, just to name a few. Through everything, our Coaches have stepped up to cover classes when we couldn’t be there, so our athletes experienced minimal impact from that standpoint.
Our family has supported us every step of the way, from helping us get started, helping us expand, helping keep kids or carpool them to their events, as well as being patient and forgiving when we couldn’t attend or were late to other family functions. They have been our biggest fans and we wouldn’t be who we are today without them.
BG: Just do you. You can’t be everything or something you’re not. Sure, you can try, and you may be able to maintain it for a while, but in the end, it won’t last. Decide who/what you want to be; and be the best darn Box at it. You can’t be worried about what the Box around the corner is doing or offering. We are the most expensive Box in our town, but we won’t compromise on that because we know the level of coaching we offer is more than worth what we charge for it. Yes, take advice from other Affiliate owners into consideration and learn from others, but at the end of the day, no one knows your members or community like you do. What works for one will not work for all.
BG: The only thing we do is CrossFit, whether you’re seven or 73 years of age — our current demographic spread. We do it, and we do it exceptionally well because we’ve believed in the methodology and stuck to the concept of virtuosity, or brilliance at the basics. We firmly believe the only difference in what we need is variance in degree and not type. We have a kids program, but they do CrossFit. We have seniors in our classes or as personal training clients, but they do CrossFit.
Some may say we’re missing part of the clientele we could reach by not doing other things, but I believe if you’re truly training with constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity; have balanced programming across monostructural cardio, gymnastics, and weight lifting; and follow the pathway of intensity with mechanics, consistency and then intensity, it works and works well.
The variance isn’t just in the programming; it’s even in the scaling options, modifications and intent for the day. It’s working smarter, not harder. Always training at 90 to 100% will get or keep people injured, so the go big or go home doesn’t work for me.
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